The world of modern food packaging is complex and constantly changing. Consumers increasingly demand packaged products in a variety of different sizes and quantities. This means manufacturers must be ready for changes every day, and their packaging machines need to be flexible and versatile enough to turn out multiple types and sizes of packages. Machines also must operate at high speeds while providing pinpoint accuracy to ensure each product is packaged correctly. Even the slightest error can disrupt the manufacturing line, resulting in wasted materials and machine downtime.
Food products are packaged in literally hundreds of varieties, sizes and quantities to accommodate a variety of consumers' needs. Packaging items into a carton takes finesse, and even seemingly small details – like making sure the end flaps of each carton are in the right place at exactly the right time – can become major obstacles for manufacturers.
Kliklok-Woodman™ knows the challenges that food manufacturers face and is constantly looking for ways to improve its machines. The company – with operations in Decatur, Ga., and Bristol, England – has been a leading designer of food-packaging technology for more than 60 years and serves many well-known customers in the bakery, snack food, confectionary, and frozen and prepared food industries. Kliklok-Woodman prides itself on providing reliable, high-performance solutions to meet the demanding quality, throughput and flexibility needs of its customers.
With these demands in mind, the engineers at the Kliklok-Woodman plants in the U.K. and the U.S. jointly developed a new packaging machine – the CELOX Endload Cartoner. The machine sits at the end of a production line and fills cartons with packaged foods, and then seals them.
The CELOX's superior flexibility and customizability allows fast, easy changeovers for producing multiple products. It can easily be adapted to accommodate new package designs that result from changing consumer demands.
The CELOX also is designed with labor efficiency in mind. Its streamlined design requires less training time for employees. And with walk-in access to the carton feeder and the inserter module on the same side of the machine, it only needs one operator.
“Our customers spoke, and we listened,” said Florin Bruda, mechanical engineer, Kliklok-Woodman. “The CELOX machine has a modular design for quick assembly and advanced motion controls for fast product changeovers.”
Kliklok-Woodman began delivering the CELOX machine to U.S. manufacturers in 2007. When a major U.S. food manufacturer recently placed an order for the CELOX, engineers at Kliklok-Woodman in Georgia realized a new design option was required to accommodate their special needs.
Almost hidden inside each CELOX machine is a flap kicker, a finger-like device that deflects the flaps of each carton outward at the right time to ensure the product is smoothly loaded into the carton. The flap kicker in the original CELOX design was powered by a pneumatic cylinder, which meant it would wear down at a quicker pace than a servo-driven mechanism when used at high speeds. Engineers needed to design a new flap kicker to ensure accuracy and reliability at speeds of up to 325 cartons per minute.
To help develop the servo-driven flap kicker, the engineers employed Allen-Bradley® Motion Analyzer software from Rockwell Automation, which had partnered with Kliklok-Woodman to provide automation solutions for the original CELOX machine. Motion Analyzer is a digital modeling and simulation tool that helps size and select an optimal motion system solution – one that uses the appropriate amount of energy and achieves the specified speed and throughput. Motion Analyzer also reduces the time required to design, develop and deliver a new machine.
“It made complete sense to use Motion Analyzer to do the initial motor sizing because the motion of the flap kicker is solely dependent upon the size of the particular carton and the size of its flaps,” Bruda said. “I could plug in the specific end-user requirements and quickly test different servo motor sizes to find the right one, avoiding the need to test each option on a physical machine.”
The design engineers have used Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks, a 3-D CAD mechanical design software, to create cutting-edge mechanical designs for many years. They were delighted to learn that Rockwell Automation formed a strategic partnership with Dassault Systèmes to link their mechanical, controls and electrical design software packages. SolidWorks integrates with Motion Analyzer through API (application programming interface) calls, which provide a live link between the two software packages.
The engineers created motion profiles of the servo-driven flap kicker in Motion Analyzer, and then transferred the profiles to SolidWorks to visualize how the machine moved. SolidWorks then calculated the torque or force required to move the load through its profile, which Motion Analyzer used to size and select motors and drives. The integration between SolidWorks and Motion Analyzer helped the designers quickly simulate a variety of motor options to choose an optimal solution for the specific application, and they didn't need to purchase proprietary software from an outside supplier.
Kliklok-Woodman engineers chose an Allen-Bradley B310P MP-Series ™ Food Grade (MPF) servo motor from Rockwell Automation to meet the food manufacturer's high-performance demands in a small space. Additionally, the motor can withstand high-pressure, caustic wash-downs and is more reliable than the pneumatic cylinder.
The CELOX integrates the MPF servo motor with other solutions to deliver motion precision, accuracy and reliability. These include Allen-Bradley Kinetix® 6000 multi-axis
servo drives to allow easy speed and position adjustments and fast product changeovers. An
Allen-Bradley PanelView™ Plus 1000 touch-screen operator interface allows employees to monitor machine activity, including status and diagnostics.
The machine also uses an Allen-Bradley ControlLogix® L61 programmable automation controller. The controller features an integrated platform for motion and machine control and a single programming environment. This integration provides end users with fewer spare parts to maintain.
By digitally modeling and prototyping machine designs, mechanical, electrical and control engineers can collaborate earlier in the design phase. In this case, Kliklok-Woodman shortened the design phase of the new CELOX machine by combining electrical and mechanical design into one step. Motion Analyzer helped Bruda size the motor and allowed the mechanical engineer to complete tasks – such as sizing the gear box – simultaneously.
With Motion Analyzer and SolidWorks, Kliklok-Woodman estimated it cut design time by a third, compared to using manual calculations and a trial-and-error method for finding the correct motor size. Less design time equated to a shorter delivery window. Using Motion Analyzer also eliminated the material costs the company would have incurred if it had built a new flap kicker to test different motor sizes.
“We've been a customer of Rockwell Automation for more than 20 years and continue to take advantage of the company's innovative technologies,” Bruda said. “No other major automation supplier provided software of this caliber for motor sizing. With Motion Analyzer software, we can tailor the motor to specific customer requirements without having to rely on an outside company to size the motor with its proprietary software.”
In any industry, the collaboration between mechanical and control engineering facilitated by the Motion Analyzer software helps engineers validate new machine concepts without purchasing or installing real equipment, lowering their Total Cost to Design, Develop and DeliverSM a new machine.
The results mentioned above are specific to this customer's use of Rockwell Automation products and services in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for other customers.